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L.A.'s New Pershing Square Will Be 'Radically Flat'

After stakeholder engagement and an international design competition, Agence Ter's plan for "radical flatness" has been selected to replace downtown L.A.'s current Pershing Square. The preferred alternative is, above all, simple.
May 21, 2016, 1pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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When it’s hard to enter a park, no one does.
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The campaign to renew Los Angeles' Pershing Square has reached a turning point: a design has been selected, and now the pressure's on to fund and build. Last week, the public-private partnership Pershing Square Renew announced that Agence Ter, a French landscape design firm, will remake the confused space into something resembling an actual park.

For the LA Times, Christopher Hawthorne writes, "The winning design focuses on opening the park directly to the sidewalks around it, replacing concrete with grass and providing extensive new pockets of shade. It is very much a reaction to, if not an outright apology for, the visual clutter of present-day Pershing Square, which remains a conspicuous dead space in an otherwise revived and money-soaked downtown."

Compared to its rivals in the design competition, the Agence Ter plan calls for fewer topographical alterations, its "radical flatness" clearly appealing to the jury selected to review the designs. Central to the new design is an open lawn, with shade trees on one side and an expansive "smart canopy" on the other, topped with solar panels. Pershing Square's underground parking garage will remain, but it will no longer rise above sidewalk level, giving pedestrians easy access to the central lawn. 

The new design will be implemented, but questions remain about funding and a timetable. The current goal is 2019, but that's assuming City Hall is fully on board and enough private funding comes through. Even so, it's an exciting development in a placemaking saga that encapsulates downtown L.A.'s ongoing renaissance. 

Listen to Southern California Public Radio coverage here.

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Published on Thursday, May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles Times
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